U.S. Women Win Pan Am Softball Gold Medal

Friday, August 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ Jennie Finch quickly noticed a problem: Cat Osterman's collar was crooked. After pitching a perfect game, Osterman had to look perfect, too.

Finch carefully straightened her teammate's jacket, and the victorious U.S. women's softball team headed for the top spot on the Pan American Games medals stand _ again.

``You've got to look out for everybody,'' said Finch, another star American pitcher. ``When you're going to be on the medal stand, you've got to look good.''

Osterman, a 20-year-old left-hander from Houston, struck out 14 in a game delayed almost four hours by weather and a lengthy elimination match before it. The first pitch was at 10:47 p.m. local time.

``I got my groove early on,'' Osterman said. We're happy to get this gold, obviously, but Athens is what we're shooting for.''

The Americans have won 51 straight Pan Ams games, allowing a total of four runs in the last five Pan Ams softball tournaments.

It was the Americans' third no-hitter in nine games at this tournament. Lisa Fernandez of Long Beach, Calif., and Lori Harrigan of Las Vegas had the others.

Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.) hit a two-run homer and scored twice. She was approached after the game by Dominican Republic outfielder Daphne Perez to sign an autograph on a ball.

``This is like a dynasty. It's fun to be a part of,'' Watley said.

Canada beat the United States 4-2 for the men's softball gold medal, the Canadians' seventh in a row. Canada was 3-0 against the Americans, who earned silver.

Ron White hit tiebreaking, two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning. Right-hander Nick Underhill pitched a six-hitter, striking out 10 and walking two.

Chad Boom (Barnsville, Minn.) had an RBI triple and Mike Dryer (Excelsior Springs, Mo.) had an RBI single in the fourth inning as the Americans went ahead, 2-1.

The Americans made the final by edging Argentina 1-0. Dryer hit a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Then the Americans were forced to use makeshift sponges, styrofoam cups and boxes to soak up water on the field and ensure they would get a shot at the Canadians, who waited out the rain on the team bus. The U.S. team had a chartered flight out of the country scheduled for early Friday and would have had to forfeit if the game was postponed until Friday.

``There's was no way we were going to go home not having played for gold,'' Dryer said.

Argentine rower Ulf Lienhard tested positive for cocaine, the third failed doping test in these games.

``Anything other than cocaine would be more pardonable,'' Pan American Sports Organization president Mario Vazquez Rana said.

Previously, U.S. sprinter Mickey Grimes of Los Angeles, the 100-meter gold medalist, tested positive for ephedrine, a banned stimulant. He was stripped of that medal, and the U.S. 400-meter relay team also lost its gold medal.

Letitia Vriesde of Surinam, who won the women's 800 run, was caught with excessive levels of caffeine in her system. She also was stripped of her medal, the only one her country has won here.

Argentina lost a silver in the men's quadruple sculls, which now goes to Brazil. The United States gets the bronze.

The men's doubles won a bronze for Argentina, but it now goes to Guatemala.

The Americans were hurt by two disqualifications.

Rami Zur was disqualified in the 500-meter individual kayak opening round because his boat was too light. Zur, of Chula Vista, Calif., earlier in the day made the 1,000-meter finals.

As boat handlers removed the kayak from the water after the 500 meters, they dislodged the weights used to keep the kayak above the 26.4-pound weight requirement. The weights fell into the water at the dock and could not be retrieved.

When the kayak was weighed, it was 4 ounces under the required weight and Zur was disqualified. The boat had been weighed following the first race of the day and was found to be legal.

``The kayak was under the supervision of race officials when the weight was lost,'' USA Kayak team leader Mark Parrish said. ``This is a flaw in the rules that works against the athlete. It's a procedural situation that is not covered in the rules.''

In the pool, the U.S. men's 400-meter freestyle relay team was DQ'd for too quick a start when Jayme Cramer of Cincinnati jumped into the water too soon on the second leg. Brazil won the race.

But there was plenty of success in swimming, where the evening session was delayed 15 minutes by rain. In the 200 breaststroke, Kyle Salyards of Lancaster, Pa., set a Pan Ams record of 2 minutes, 13.37 seconds. Second was Sean Quinn of Lancaster, S.C.

Staciana Stitts of Encinitas, Calif., won the 100 breaststroke in a games mark of 1:09.01. Corrie Clark of Malverne, Pa. was second.

The women's 100 butterfly went to Bethany Goodwin of Jarretsville, Md., in 59.97. Dana Kirk of Bremerton, Wash. got the bronze.

Cuba swept the United States in women's volleyball, 25-19, 25-19, 25-21.

``The organization of their attack is the best we've seen from anybody,'' coach Mike Hebert of Arizona said.

The Cubans will face the hosts, who upset Brazil in five sets.